How to Be Happy, in Three Easy Steps

1) Surrender all ambitions to make, do, or build anything truly great. Trying to achieve greatness will lead to certain failure for everyone, except maybe Tiger Woods. The odds are so stacked against you — like, I don’t know, 10,000,000 -to- 1? — that you’re going to fail in this lifetime and probably the next couple hundred of lifetimes. If you’re, say, a writer, you’re never going to write anything remotely as great as Shakespeare, Dickens, or Twain. If you’re a singer, you’re never going to sing anything faintly as transcendent as Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, or Bobby McFerrin. If you’re a lawyer, you’re not going to be Clarence Darrow. So stop trying to be great, because it’s a losing proposition. Constantly losing makes people unhappy. 

2) Quit trying to be beautiful. Despite what our culture insists — namely, that the loftiest ambition in life is to be a sexier and more attractive person, with slimmer thighs, fewer wrinkles, and better-defined abdominal muscles — resist the impulse to look good. No matter how hard you exercise, no matter how diligently you diet, no matter how many magazine tips you apply to your wardrobe, makeup, and physical fitness, you will never look like George Clooney or Angelina Jolie. So even if you look better than you ever have, the world will still be thinking, “He looks good, it’s true. But he’s no Matthew McConaughey.” Therefore you are doomed to ultimate failure. (See above.)

3) Amass enormous amounts of money and influence. Since almost none of us will be the object of universal lust or admiration, we can compensate for this bitter disappointment by acquiring the funds to purchase whatever it is that consoles our broken heart. Even better, we can acquire power, the ability to have an effect on others. It doesn’t matter if this power is used responsibly or kindly; indeed, many people find the reckless and unfeeling use of power strangely pleasurable, even arousing. If you can’t be loved, liked, or desired, it’s best to be feared and “respected,” which happens frequently when you have lots of dough.

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